Former attorney general Wally Oppal. (Black Press Media files)

Former attorney general Wally Oppal. (Black Press Media files)

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Avoiding miscommunication similar to what plagued the RCMP and Vancouver police during the Pickton murders is top of mind for the head of the new Surrey police force transition team.

Former attorney general Wally Oppal will head the joint transition committee that’s being established after the province green-lit the municipal Surrey force on Thursday.

“We know from our past experience, particularly when we did the [Robert] Pickton inquiry into missing and murdered women, it’s most important that police departments share information,” Oppal told reporters Thursday.

“That wasn’t done in all cases in Pickton… we want to ensure those mistakes are not repeated in the future.”

Oppal said this was an especially important task in Surrey, where gang violence can run rampant and stretch all across the region.

“We know that people who commit crimes don’t respect geographical boundaries, so I think that’s why one of our priorities will be to ensure there’s a real-time intelligence centre where information is shared,” Oppal said.

He pointed that when Robert Pickton was picking up and killing dozens of women in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver police did not always share that information with Coquitlam RCMP who policed where Pickton lived.

“We knew a lot of the information regarding women missing in one jurisdiction wasn’t necessarily shared by police in another jurisdiction.”

The members of the committee Oppal will chair have not yet been revealed but will included representatives from both Surrey and the province.

Oppal said the “next major milestone is to establish a governing police board.”

That will be done via provincial legislation, he said, noting he could not give a date for its completion.

Overall, the boots on the ground deadline for the new Surrey force is April 1, 2021. Oppal could not comment on the transition committee’s budget.

Oppal, who has recommended a regional police force for Metro Vancouver in the past, said Thursday he did not thing a Surrey police force went counter to that goal.

“This could be the first step in a regional police force,” he said.

“The citizens of surrey are entitled to have their own police force.”

Other tasks for the transition committee include setting up recruitment and training plan, a collective agreement and a pension plan for the new Surrey police force, including a possible transition plan for current Surrey RCMP members who join the municipal department.

READ MORE: McCallum calls it a great and historic day as province approves Surrey’s policing plan

READ MORE: Province approves Surrey’s plan to establish municipal police force

READ MORE: Surrey reacts to policing plan getting the green light


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